A few weeks ago my friend Ben Stark came to SRC, the church he grew up at, to share the story of his pedal powered journey from Michigan to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. Ben is a great wordsmith and his stories of his long trek were incredible but their was one story in particular that really caught my attention. Toward the end of Ben’s journey he was riding through the high dessert in Idaho. It was hot and desolate, Ben had little water to drink, his body was weary from the long journey and he was riding into a headwind. He said it was one of the first times he recalls feeling a deep desperate need for God. He prayed and begged God for strength to finish this leg of the journey.
While Ben was sharing this story I was deeply moved by the passion in his voice as he recalled those moments but I was also struck with a question: In our overly comfortable lives do we ever need God that desperately? Do we need to go on a semi-insane cross country bike trip or have a catastrophic life event occur in order to realize that we need God? Then of course the youth pastor in me thought how do we teach children and teens that they need God? Our lives are so comfortable, so easy, everything is at our fingertips especially for our kids. If life is that easy for most of us, how do we possibly teach or learn that we need God.
I have wrestled with this story for a couple of weeks now and the best answer that keeps coming to mind is to tell stories. We should tell the stories of the Bible and tell our own stories. Tell of times in our lives or in the lives of others when God was desperately needed. Tell stories of time family or friends leaned heavily on God because they had nowhere else to turn.
For me personally I was made aware of the need for God at an early age due to so many health issues that my Mom struggled with for most of her adult life. She had a massive brain tumor while in college and has major health problems since then. Just a few years ago she needed a double lung transplant due to complications from one of the surgeries from her brain tumor. I have seen my family cling to God in the darkest most desperate moment in life when even those in the medical community didn’t give my Mom much hope of making it. I learned that we need God, the giver of live because in those hopeless moments God is in control and that is a source of hope. No matter the outcome God is in control and will be with you no matter if the outcome is horrific or if the outcome is amazing. God is with us. This story formed me, this story is a story I need to tell.
The problem is that not everyone has had those experiences and I hope not everyone has to. Those experiences cannot be artificially replicated either. So we turn to stories, we turn to God’s good book, we turn to the stories of our ancestors, we turn to our stories to teach those who have not yet realized that they desperately need God. We need not just tell the stories of the mega dramatic experiences but when we relied on God to get us through a tough day at work, when we leaned on God to help us have a better relationship with an estranged sibling, when we leaned on God to help us lose weight, or when we turned God to help decided what college to attend. No matter if your story is big and grand or simple and mundane, if you relied on God please share that story, the world needs to hear them.
There is a beautiful thing that happens when we realize that we need God, our eyes are opened to the fact that others need God too. When that moment happens we have a chance to join God in bringing the Heavenly Kingdom here, to become God’s hand and feet.
-I want to thank Ben for so eloquently sharing his stories and thank my friend Jamie Downing for putting up with my email and helping me wrestle with this
Wow, Matt, very well written! Sadly it sometimes seems that the only times we turn to Him or need Him is when things aren’t going our way. “Okay God, I’m facing something very difficult and I need you”. That’s fine but what about “Okay, God. You are truly amazing and I don’t deserve the least of what you have given me. All is going great but I need you to keep me grounded, humble and aware of who you are and what you can do at any time.” The latter is so important and I self-admit to lacking in that category. Great topic!!!!!
Thank you Vonda, I glad you liked the article.
And how do we share the message that God is needed without beating up the people we’re telling? I want to say people are generally aware of their fallenness, their vulnerability, their finitude, etc, but we live in a culture that tries so hard to tell people they can improve themselves and be good enough on their own, or by buying more stuff. How do we share the countercultural message that we can’t be good enough or improve ourselves without God, yet avoid just making people feel like we’re telling them they’re terrible people? How do we affirm people as created good, yet still desperately in need of God?
Just some thoughts. Thanks for the post!